Monday, May 28, 2012

Where California Chardonnay Comes From

Way back in the day - way back in 1912 - a fellow nabbed a Chardonnay graft from a nursery in France and steamed it to California.  That fellow?  He was a Wente.  In 1936, the Wente family winery produced the first wine labeled as Chardonnay in California.  People liked it.  Word spread.  And today many Chard vineyards in California are planted to the Wente clone. So, it wouldn't be too far of a stretch to say that Wente is synonymous with Chardonnay in California.  And it's also no surprise that the wines this winery (now almost 130 years old) produces are pretty darn good.

I've had their line up of Chardonnays before, so revisiting them in this vintage was informative. 2010 was a rough year for a lot of California, but you'd be hard pressed to find evidence of that in these wines.  Of all I tasted - as with the same lineup last year - what impressed the most were the lower priced offerings.  Specifically, the reliable and bombastic Riva Ranch.  It epitomizes the big, bad Chardonnay profile California became famous for.  If you like that kind of wine, this is one you just can't miss with.

2010 Wente Chardonnay Arroyo Seco 'Riva Ranch' $20
How is it?  Same as last year.  And the year before.  And the year before that: Swaggering and solid.  All the stereotypical CaliChard flavors are here - creamy, buttery, plump fruit - and in ample volume.  But they're also in balance, even if a bit fleshy - a feat considering the generosity of fruit this wine delivers.  A guilty pleasure for sure. SRP is $20, but you'll likely find it for around $14 or so.

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